I flew out to Ohio for my sister's wedding over the weekend. I had a great time, and I was very happy to re- connect with my family. On both flights I got stuck in the middle seat so I couldn't look out the window. Also, both trips had layovers in Denver with a few hours to kill. While I sat in the airport chairs reading the paper in Denver, there was a strong presence looming. An elephant in the room if you will: The Rocky Mountains. For some reason, I only took a quick peek at the mountain range through the airport windows. I did, but I also didn't want to look at them. Maybe it was because I knew that I would be getting to know them all too well very soon. Their sight and presence also terrified me. Most big mountain ranges do when I look at them from the valley.
I remember the first time I saw the Rockies. I was 19 years old and embarking on a western hitchhiking trip with my college roommate Zach. We had just finished our freshman year in college and summer had arrived. We were ready for adventure. Zach had just cut his waste long hair to a new shorter look, and had died his brown hair blond. We were riding out with our friends Jaimie, Drew and Chris. Jaime was the quintessential hippy goddess. High positive energy, and beautiful. She gave me the book Dharma Bums by Jack Kerouac to read. Drew, had a long mane of black curly hair and a beard and was tall. He reminded me of Black Beard the pirate. He was a great guitar player, and threw parties at his house every Thursday called "Tequilla Night" during the school year. Those parties used to rage out of control. We were also riding with a guy named Chris, a quiet guy with a blond curly afro. Chris was the driver, and we all piled into his pickup truck. It's not often that I feel cool, but this was one time in my life, where I felt pretty hip. We all brought our backpacks, camping gear, and musical instruments. The five of us were heading out to Colorado!
Growing up in Maryland, this was a big deal. I remember as our truck left the eastern shore of Maryland, crossed the Bay Bridge and eventually arrived in the Appalachian mountains. Jaimie shrieked with delight upon seeing the Appalachians. "I love the mountains!" she exclaimed. I had never seen anyone so excited to see mountains before. I still think of her every time I see mountains in the distance. Her excitement awoke something inside me that day as well. I remember we all took shifts driving while heading out to Colorado. We drove nonstop.We were slowly gaining elevation as we got closer to Denver. The landscape began to roll. I remember seeing clouds that looked so close, only to see another layer way above. Windmills dotted the hillsides.
Then we saw them. The Rocky Mountains. Large jagged peaks on the horizon. I was amazed how big they became the closer we drove to Denver. I had never seen mountains like this. Eventually, it looked like an incredible wall, jutting out of the ground. We were all excited and in awe. We passed Denver and entered the foothills. Development seemed to just be beginning in the foothills. We saw new, large houses being built. We saw a house that looked like a spaceship. Not long after, we saw waterfalls, and snowy peaks for the first time in our lives. I was experiencing my first "Rocky Mountain High." None of us knew what the summer had in store for us. We were young, impressionable, and open to experience. I was seeing places I had never imagined. Even though this was my first time in the Rockies, I already knew it would not be my last...